USB Flash Drive Myths Busted!

By · Thursday, October 28th, 2010

USB Flash Drive Myths Busted!Did you know that plugging in a broken USB drive into a computer will result in it magically fixing itself? Ok that statement is about as believable as saying unicorns and trolls exist, but USB myths are everywhere. You hear myths from family members, from friends, coworkers, and sometimes from people we consider to be very educated in the field. But that’s just what a myth is, something that is real but believe to be so. So we thought we would take this opportunity to list a few common USB myths that are believed by most to be true, but in fact are completely bogus.

Myth #1: The USB Connector on a Flash Drive is Very weak
This is one of those myths that are not only untrue, but it’s actually the other way around! The USB connector on all USB flash drives is made from metal and is very resistant to damage or bending. The rest of the USB drive however is not. Most USB drives are made from plastic or other materials and are vulnerable to breaking or bending as compared to the USB connector. Even on the inside of a USB, the PCB board is more fragile than the metal USB connector. So can a USB connector break; absolutely, but it is far stronger than we think.

Myth #2: USB Drives are Vulnerable to Magnets
This myth more than likely originated even before USBs were created, but it is still a myth nonetheless. USB flash drives are completely impervious to magnetic fields as they themselves are not magnetic! USB drives are built with none magnetic materials and even if they were, how USBs store data wouldn’t make it matter. This of course extends to all types of flash memory such as SSDs, SD cards, External Hard Drives etc. and as a side fact, even traditional hard drives are immune. In fact a traditional hard drive uses a very powerful magnet to move the head.

Myth #3: All USBs are Ruined when Dunked in Water
This particular myth does have some truth to it. It is a well known fact that if you put a standard flash drive into water, and then plug it in, you will more than likely break your flash drive. However, simply putting a flash drive into water does not hurt it. It is only when the USB is wet and plugged into any device that gives it power does it short out. So as a tip, if your drive gets wet, put it in a jar of uncooked rice or silica gel for 24 hours and make sure it is 100% dry before plugging it back in. As long as there is not an electrical current passing through the drive when it is wet, the drive will most likely survive.

Also, not all types of flash drives are vulnerable to water damage. UDF flash memory, which is usually the memory used in very small size flash drives, is actually water proof! We wouldn’t recommend putting the drive in water and plugging it back into your computer, but simply drying it off should fix the problem.

Myth #4: Unplugging a USB from a Computer Without “Safely Removing the Hardware” Results in Damage
It is a popular belief that unplugging a USB directly from a computer will result in damage. This is a complete myth with the exception of one instance. The only time you can really cause damage to your drive or to the host computer is removing a flash drive when it is in use. This can actually cause severe damage to a computer. So as a tip, never remove a USB while it is in use! For all other occurrences, it is actually pretty safe to remove it whenever.

Myth #5: When a USB breaks, Your Data is Lost Forever
Unlike a CD or DVD that breaks, when a USB breaks your data is not 100% lost. USBs have been blown up with explosives and data has survived, so the likelihood that your data is still on the drive from a more common failure is actually pretty good. The method for data retrieval may be out of the skill knowledge for the average computer user, but it is possible.

There are programs on you can buy or download that will help you retrieve deleted or missing data off a flash drive as well as there are professional computer forensics companies that specialize in data retrieval in the event that traditional programs don’t work. So is it possible to lose your data permanently; yes, but it could be potentially saved through other means.

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